MANCHESTER: A British-Pakistani became the first hijab-wearing model to enter Miss England finals which were held on Tuesday.
Sara Ifthekar, currently a law student at Huddersfield, qualified for the Miss England competition after being named Miss Huddersfield 2018 and Miss Yorkshire Popularity 2018. She was among 50 competitors for the Miss England crown and hoped to become the first Muslim winner.
While previous Muslim competitors have chosen to wear headscarves, Iftekhar will be the first finalist to do so.
“It just proves Miss England represents the way England is today,” competition spokeswoman Angie Beasley was quoted as saying.
Apart from being a law student and model, Iftekhar is also a make-up artist and often shares pictures of herself wearing traditional Pakistani dresses on social media. She also started a clothing business aged 16.
“I may be the first woman to wear a hijab. However, I am just a regular girl and we all have a fair opportunity in this contest,” the BBC quoted her as saying, adding that Iftekhar said she entered the contest for “a bit of fun.”
“If I want to cover myself up and dress modestly why should that be an issue? I am just like the other contestants,” she said.
On a fundraising page she set up for children’s charity Beauty with a Purpose, Iftekhar wrote: “I participated in Miss 2018 in order to show that beauty doesn’t have a definition. Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, colour or shape.”
The first stage of the competition was held in July, including the sports beach beauty, top model, beautiful mind and publicity rounds.
“Here is a vibrant, confident young woman who is proving, on a huge platform, that beauty comes in many forms, that Muslim women in hijabs can be beautiful, and that we can own our beauty,” a leading UK media outlet said of her.
“The fact that she’s reached the Miss England finals is something that should be celebrated by the Muslim community, and by women at large.”
Tuesday’s events in the second stage was held at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire, central England and saw Alisha Cowie from Newcastle take home the title. She will also be representing England at the Miss World finals which are scheduled to be held Sanya, China, in November and December.